Fly fishing gear is constantly evolving and no two anglers have the same set-up when it comes to essential gear for the river. Of course, there are the very basics which everyone seems to carry, but I think that universal list might be incredibly short. Outside of nippers, hemostats, and floatant I think if you quizzed 10 anglers on what their other essential pieces of gear are you would get 10 different lists. The dry fly only guys don’t bother with split shot or strike indicators. Float fisherman have no need for wading staffs or small landing nets and lake anglers have all manner of funky sinking lines, tips, and other gear that stream fisherman leave at home. I was thinking the other day how my own essential gear has changed over time. As a fishing guide I need what I need, but I don’t want to lug around a bunch of extra stuff that is rarely, if ever used. I strive for efficiency with my gear. I would much rather have room for an extra box of flies than six different styles of indicator and latest knot tying tool. That said, there are some surprising things that have crept onto my list and I now don’t know what I would do without them.
The most recent addition is a set of permanent markers. I use these to modify the color of existing flies all the time. They’re great if you need to turn a hare’s ear olive during a green drake hatch or touch up a tan hopper to the yellow naturals you see everywhere. Even shading gold beads to black when fishing to ultra-picky trout. It has come to the point where I even tie certain flies quite generic knowing that I will color them up before I fish them. That set of makers is in my guide bag year round, no exceptions. Another recent addition to my gear kit is the Rio versileaders. These are great sink-tip leader systems that have a quick loop to loop connection. Now when we want to fish streamers instead of having to switch spools or reels we can quickly swap out a dry fly set-up for a streamer sink-tip set up in minutes. That saves valuable space in my gear kit and time on the water. The other evolution in my kit focuses on floatant. For years I only carried the standard liquid floatant in the small bottle. It works well in most situations but when I’m guiding I absolutely need my flies to float well all the time. The liquid doesn’t work at all with certain materials like CDC and it doesn’t help much with flies that have been “slimed” after catching a fish or two. That forced me to change flies a lot when the fishing was good and there were times when I ran out of fresh bugs and my clients had to make do with poor floating patterns. Now I have at least three different floatants with me at all times, the standard liquid, a special homemade concoction, and Simizaki Dry-Shake powder. Many of us live for great dry fly fishing and there’s no reason to miss out because you can’t keep your fly on the surface. My fly fishing gear kit is still relatively simple but it’s important to keep an open mind to new ideas because you could find something small that will greatly improve your fishing success.